My friends are having a themed wedding next month – "1950s Rockabilly".
Do I really have to follow the dress code or can I go in my normal wedding guest outfit (a suit)?
David, by email
Ah yes, the themed wedding. The only thing that can reveal heretofore unknown aspects of a friend's personality other than what kind of wedding they opt for is what names they choose for their kids. Even the sturdiest of friendships can wobble in the face of a birth announcement saying how happy everyone is about the arrival of Strawberry Cricket Moonshine. It's very hard not to see your friend differently once they're the parent of little Zorro Boxer and Ibiza Merryweather, and it's downright impossible not to rewrite your entire shared past once the wedding invite arrives demanding that you partake in their special day theme: The Little Mermaid.
I've been thinking a lot about themed weddings of late, not because I have to go to any (thank God, I pretty much choose my friends on the likelihood of their ever having a themed wedding), but because one in particular has been in the news – that of a young man by the name of Sean Parker, aka, the guy Justin Timberlake played in The Social Network.
Earlier this year, Parker decided to celebrate his love for his longterm girlfriend by holding a Lord of the Rings-esque wedding, which cost him about $9m (£5.9m). Just to clarify, Parker is not 16 – he is a 34-year-old adult man. To Parker's astonishment, his wedding was roundly mocked in the media, in some cases unfairly (it was claimed his wedding damaged the environment – he says it didn't), in some cases fairly (to reiterate, he held a $9m fantasy novel wedding.)
Parker was so outraged about the vilification of his wedding that he took to – what else? – the internet to decry the "link-baiting" depths to which journalism has sunk, without really bothering to consider the part, as the founding president of Facebook, he has played in creating this link-baiting land.
Putting on a wedding is, I imagine, exhausting in itself, but putting on a themed wedding makes invading a small country look like a teabreak. Parker writes about how he spent two years looking for the perfect patch of woodland for his fantasy novel wedding. Two years! Can you imagine tramping through forests for two years? I don't think I've ever had a relationship last two years, let alone spent that long looking for something. It should also be noted that Parker spent what looks like another two years writing his tear-soaked invective against his critics, seeing as it is almost 10,000 words long. All in all, Parker comes out of this looking like a man who has a little bit too much time on his hands, which might explain his love of 900-page novels about elves. Maybe being a Silicon Valley millionaire is a lot easier than most of us have been led to believe.
But for heaven's sake, it is a free world and if someone wants to spend $9m on pretending he and his new wife are elves in the forest, then they are certainly allowed to do so. If he really doesn't care about how much his friends will wince at the invites, more power to him, let him have his Special Day. As long as he provides his guests with food, drink and places to stay, then fine, go forth and be elvish, Sean Parker. (Incidentally, I have been hearing of a new wedding trend in which guests are urged "to camp" as opposed to stay in a hotel. One can only assume that these couples don't actually want any of their friends to come to the wedding.)
Now, if this column has any kind of message to impart it is, simply, dress any way you feel comfortable and bugger the rules. So going by that basic tenet, my advice should be to forget the themed wedding strictures, and wear your suit.
But here's the thing, David. A wedding is one of those occasions when you're only there for the sake of someone else – the happy couple – and so it is my firm belief that wedding guests should follow whatever instructions the bride and groom issue. These people are paying for your food and drink, after all, so just play an extra in the movie of their Special Day and get on with it. If you honestly feel you cannot abide by their wardrobe instructions, then don't go to the wedding. So David, either start practising your rockabilly quiff and go to the wedding, or stay at home in your suit. Trying to have it both ways is just rude.
Finally, if you do go, you need to commit to the festivities – there are few things worse than a party guest who snootily stands on the sidelines and refuses to join in. Obviously Parker's defence of his wedding is eminently laughable. But, by God, the man commits and is commendably, defiantly, unashamed of his wedding and it's an attitude that all themed wedding guests are advised to follow. Being Banquo at the feast is bad enough. Being the three-piece suit in the land of elves is, it seems to me, far more shaming.
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